Saturday, March 03, 2007

PLAY: My Name is Rachel Corrie, by Rachel Corrie, Katherine Viner & Alan Rickman

My Name is Rachel Corrie,
by Rachel Corrie, Katherine Viner & Alan Rickman
Theatre Communications Group, September 2006

[Disclaimer: I work for the Seattle Repertory Theatre, which is mounting a production of My Name is Rachel Corrie that opens later this month. However, this is only in the interest of full disclosure; my job at the Rep is evening/weekend receptionist, and I have no connection or investment in this production. For further clarification, this review is of the text of the play, not of any individual production.]

Don’t be fooled by any of the PR that producing companies sling about My Name is Rachel Corrie not being a political play. It is an overtly political play, and can’t help being so.

Which isn’t to say their protestations are utterly groundless. On its face, My Name is Rachel Corrie can be called one girl’s story, told in her own words. But the simple fact of the matter is that we would not care about the story of this particular girl were it not for the political context of her death.

Rachel Corrie was a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA when she traveled to Gaza to join international activists in protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes by the Isreali Defense Force (IDF). On March 16, 2003, Corrie was killed by an IDF bulldozer while attempting to block the destruction of a house; the details of that day are disputed.

Depending on your point of view, Corrie is either a folk hero or a young girl who got herself killed by stepping into the middle of someone else’s fight. The very fact of the play’s existence sides with the former. We are only interested in Corrie because of the controversy that is sure to ensue when the play’s political relevance is recognized. Nobody that would choose to produce this play wants to side completely with Corrie in the incredibly complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict, yet it is impossible to separate endorsement of her politics from the choice to mount it.

Because what My Name is Rachel Corrie really is, is a bad play. OK, maybe not bad, but lackluster and uninspiring in and of itself. What power it has is drawn from the energy evident in Corrie’s writing, the energy of a young woman in the process of finding herself. And, at moments, however brief, it delivers in her wit and earnestness. But, far more often, it comes off as precious or contrived, and during those times, the bulk of the play, the only thing that can potentially draw the audience along is the politics, the pull of her inevitable end, her martyrdom.

As a collection of first-person accounts (edited by Viner and Rickman from Corrie's writings), the play can only truly represent one viewpoint, Corrie’s. The only hints of the complexity of the political situation in which she inserts herself come when she relates the words of a Palestinian doctor, who notes that life in Gaza was good before the Intifada, and the occasional hand-wringing of her parents over suicide bombings as a tactic.

In the end, there really isn’t anything wrong with deciding that Corrie is, in fact, a folk hero, a young woman with the bravery to take direct action in support of her ideals. But, to deny that this play’s merits hang on acceptance of her specific choice, and cannot be viewed in a political vacuum, misses any point the play might ultimately make.

reviewed by Jim Jewell, 490 words



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being from the Seattle area I celebrate the fact that she was killed in the Middle East instead of coming back to America and becoming a suicide bomber as she probably would have.

Many lives were saved that day. Perhaps those of my friends and family.

Thank you Israel for dealing with this piece of human trash. We owe you one.

By the way, did you know she advocated the killing of Hippies?

12:20 PM  
Blogger JJisafool said...

A few clarifications from the reviewer.

If there is a piece of human trash here, it is the anonymous (cowardly) poster above.

Whether or not I agree with Corrie's politics or think she should be a folk hero, I believe her death was a tragedy. She was engaged in nonviolent resistance, and would not have become a suicide bomber.

The fact that cowardly poster believes she advocates the killing of Hippies shows from how extreme and ludicrous a position he/she comes.

Unfortunate that people like anonymous choose to sling hate instead of engaging in dialogue.

Also want to clarify that I believe this play should be produced, regardless of whether I like it, and that I plan to attend.

And, lastly, an invitation to anonymous to engage in some reasoned debate on the issue, instead of this trash above.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Joanna said...

Marya Sea Kaminski, who is playing Rachel, has been very eloquently and insightfully blogging about her experience in the play on Seattle Rep's blog. She offers a unique look at the show--as a piece of theater rather than a controversy.

5:18 PM  
Blogger JJisafool said...

I saw the production last night, and Kaminski does a fantastic job - she's a powerful actor. The play works far better on the stage than on the page (of course), and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it (with a few quibbles, of course). I'll post a review of the Rep production shortly.

5:30 PM  

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